In California, Black Boys See Bleak Future At School
By kindergarten, 1 out of 4 African American boys in California is convinced he will fail in school, a self-fulfilling prophecy driven in part by poverty and trauma, according to the results of a legislative inquiry.
The Assembly select committee investigation on the status of boys and men of color also found that the boys are increasingly putting a strain on the state’s economic health. The findings were drawn from several community hearings, expert testimony and the input of hundreds of other stakeholders over 18 months.
The final report, scheduled for public release this week, identified education, health and employment as among the most significant areas of concern, and offered recommendations, including where to focus resources and policymakers’ attention.
“We have an untapped populace that desperately needs to be acknowledged and cultivated,” said Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, who was the chairman of the committee, in a statement. “There are dozens of legislative, administrative and scalable solutions contained in this final report and action plan.”
The report’s findings included broad summaries of how men and boys of color, especially African American and Latino males, fare in California.
Among them, “place and race matter.”
“Where you live, to a large extent, determines whether you are exposed to hazardous pollutants and unhealthy food; whether you attend a good school or land a decent job with a livable wage; and whether you are likely to go to jail or die relatively young,” according to the report.
More specifically, the report cited alarming statistics.
Currently, about 70 percent of California males under age 25 are of an ethnicity other than white, yet too many of those boys of color are failing in school and are off track to succeed in the workforce.
For example, by fourth grade, about 60 percent of black and Latino children score below proficient on reading tests, and by eighth grade, about 1 in 4 are chronically absent.
“We need to change our value system and recognize that investing in the most marginalized youth will yield the greatest economic returns for California,” Swanson said.
Recommendations included expanding educational programs that reduce suspensions and expulsions and increase access to college and career preparation.
The report cited Oakland Unified as an example of a district that is already implementing many of the recommendations, including full-service schools with health centers, discipline policies that keep students in school and programs to support at-risk youth.
For example, the district has an Office of African-American Male Achievement, which supports manhood development classes at middle and high schools and other programs for black males.
The manhood classes offer black male students positive African American male role models who encourage the young men to focus on their education and future and offer a curriculum that includes everything from how to tie a tie to an analysis of historical black figures.
‘Long time coming’
“It’s a long time coming,” said Chris Chatmon, the executive officer of the district office, of the state’s attention to the issue. “Folks are excited, are refreshed and are really about to take this commitment on. This is not just some blip, not some trend.”
The report also emphasized the need to increase access to health insurance, specifically to address trauma in schools and the community.
In addition, with nearly a third of young African American men jobless, the report recommended increasing access to workforce training in school and beyond, including policy changes that would allow formerly incarcerated young men to participate.
The report noted that 1 in 6 black males between 15 and 25 were out of school, out of work or incarcerated.
“Increasing employment among these males should be a priority of local and state policymakers in their efforts to get the economy moving and increasing productivity in California,” according to the report. “As California becomes more diverse, we must nurture and harness the talents, skills, and hopes of young people of color – boys and young men in particular.”
Tags:African American BoysAlarming StatisticsAssemblymanBlack BoysBoys Of ColorCommittee InvestigationDecent JobEconomic HealthExpert TestimonyFourth GradeHazardous PollutantsLatino ChildrenLatino MalesLegislative InquiryLivable WageMen Of ColorRace MatterScalable SolutionsSelf Fulfilling ProphecyUnhealthy Food